Govt reaches out to HAL for highrises in Bangalore’s Central Business District

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BANGALORE: In a bid to make Namma Bengaluru mirror the highrise culture of a Shanghai or Singapore, the state government is seeking the cooperation of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the operators of the city’s old HAL airport, to allow builders to go vertical. Situated in the heart of Bangalore, HAL airport issues no-objection certificates (NOCs) on height limits to developments situated approximately in a 5-kilometre radius around the airport. Until 2010, the Airports Authority of India was issuing the same NOC to builders. A couple of months ago, the state chief secretary S V Ranganath sent a letter to the chairman of HAL, R K Tyagi, seeking the defence establishment’s help to increase the radar height at HAL airport, which would in turn facilitate taller buildings to come up in the central business district areas of the city.

In the letter, a copy of which is with TOI, Ranganath, said, “There has been considerable demand for permitting construction of highrise and multi-storied buildings in the vicinity of HAL Airport…If the height of the existing radar is increased by about 1.5 meters, the signal clearance of the radar will improve considerably while facilitating construction of multi-storied buildings using the permissible FSI to the optimum.”

As per estimates by real estate industry body Credai, if the radar height is increased by 1.5 meters, developments in the CBD could enjoy an additional height of upto 75 meters or 25 floors. Typically, one floor equals three meters.

Ranganath said that since Bangalore city had grown tremendously in the past decade, it necessitated upgradation and improvement of infrastructure by various government agencies. Urban development agencies in the city have increased the FSI limit for construction of highrise buildings in Bangalore.

Senior government officials told TOI that HAL had responded saying they would examine the recommendations, but hadn’t yet got back with any proposals. However, in response to TOI’s e-mail query, HAL said, “The letter from the Karnataka chief secretary was examined and HAL’s opinion on increasing the height of the radar has already been communicated as not feasible or beneficial.”

Nagaraj Reddy, president of Credai, said the objective of going highrise was to offer more green space and open areas. “Mumbai and Delhi airports are allowing highrise developments to come up. We hope that HAL can come up with a solution which would not affect their landing and take-off restrictions,” he said. highrise apartments give 80% to 85% more open/green space than regular mid to lowrise apartments. For example, on a 10-acre plot if a developer plans for a vertical highrise (above 30 floors) then the developer would only be using up roughly 2-acres leaving eight acres of land as open space.

Current regulations too conservative

Many feel that the current safe-height regulations are way too conservative, given the advances in aviation. Developers like Sobha and Mantri have approached the AAI to conduct an aeronautical study of certain CBD areas to ascertain safe-height regulations.

Even Britannia Industries, which is looking to redevelop its marquee land parcel on Old Airport Road, is said to have reached out to AAI. However, AAI is believed to be turning down such requests citing jurisdictional conflicts. Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex, perhaps the most prime commercial real estate location in India, has benefited from such an aeronautical study. “Look at Hong Kong. You have so many highrises in and around the old airport,” said J C Sharma, MD, Sobha Developers. A Mumbai-based developer has taken HAL to court in a bid to get the defence establishment to conduct an aeronautical study.

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